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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.94 Santiago dic. 2016 

Works & Projects

No Man's Land

José Tomás Pérez1  * 

1 Escuela de Arquitectura, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Given the longstanding border disputes between Chile and Peru - enhanced by the 2014 International Court of Justice verdict that left a triangular area in a strange legal ambiguity - this project imagines an architectural solution to a geopolitical conflict: subtracting the disputed territory in order to duplicate the coastline for both countries. Thus, the only possible confrontation would be that of two beaches overlooking one country from another.

Keywords: border; beach; subtraction; conflict; geopolitics

This research was part of the Architecture degree project presented in April 2016. The place corresponds to the interregnum known as terrestrial triangle,4 the space that represents the border dispute between Chile and Peru.

The operation was based on the place's subtraction- by removing the volume of land and its captive ocean inlet - followed by the addition of a road section between the ports of Arica and Ilo.

Figure 1 Location. Published scale 1: 500.000 

The project's starting point was the difficulty in finding solutions to border conflicts in South America during recent decades, triggering international trials involving large amounts of time and money,5 increasing distrust and blocking the territories for indefinite periods. In contrast, subtraction explores a potential strategic subversion: defusing the conflict through physical transformation of the territory. In other words, a formal exit for the politicized interregnum.6

In political terms, the land's subtraction supports a position: the recognition of the juxtaposition of sovereignties. It admits on the one hand the dry shore claimed by Peru and, on the other, the Pacific Ocean entrance under Chilean control, forming as a result a system of embankments surrounding an artifact of uncertain sovereignty: a territorial-scale water pool. As opposed to a monument, the project investigates the possibility of oblivion from the viewpoint of the ruin's appealing imaginary, that is, between the disappearance and the remains of the original controversy.

(c) José Tomás Pérez

Figure 2 Photo survey Tacna - Arica. September 2015 

Figure 3 Project image 

Figure 4 Project image 

Regionally, the subtractive drive exorcises the impossibility of a relationship between countries, while opposing the dividing logic existing within the 30-kilometers beach adjacent to the border. Thus, revisiting the plan for connecting both sides allows for the addition of a road section acting on a seaside plain of unprecedented spatial attributes for the regional context.

Today, understanding the historical panorama - beyond the last 87-years border condition - admits challenging the reductive construction based on the rivalries originated from the Pacific War. Thus - as a political decision - the project explores its ability to withstand the course of time and sees, in the border's future obsolescence, the maximum possible usage: a transition from the rubble of political conflict to a seaside place set in a binational coast.

The remains: an enclave-beach, in a symbolic central position, resisting the economic pressures proper of Tacna and Arica conurbation.

Figure 5 Plan. Published scale 1: 5.000 

Figure 6 Plan comparison between terrestrial triangle and Palacio de La Moneda. Published scale 1: 5.000. 


José Tomás Pérez


Emilio De la Cerda


Terrestrial triangle ch/pe


Architecture degree project Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


David Quezada

Construction system

Excavation and earthworks, dry and wet sand with rockfilled coastline reinforcements


US$ 110/m2

Site area


Excavation area

12.000 m2

Volume removed

208.900 m3

Project year

2015 - 2016


María Eugenia Schmidt, José Tomás Pérez


José Tomás Pérez


BALTZ, Lewis. Park City. Nueva York: Aperture, 1980. [ Links ]

METAHAVEN. Uncorporate Identity. Zurich: Lars Müller, 2010. [ Links ]

Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2016. Undergraduate studies at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), 2014

Creative Commons License Este es un artículo publicado en acceso abierto bajo una licencia Creative Commons